Jim has been a friend of mine for a very long time. Back in high school Jim was of a more elite sporting breed than myself – a regular member of the school’s A-Grade basketball, football, and cricket teams. I myself toiled in the C and D-grade leagues, and still remain partially scarred from the terrible coaching I received during this period.

Tangent – it’s worth recounting one story about an old coach of mine. He believed we could become more efficient on the basketball court by completing more tasks “in mid-air”. I remember an inbounds drill he ran where he instructed us to 1) catch the ball, 2) turn to the hoop, and 3) take our first dribble – all without touching the ground. Needless to say the drill ended up being a total farce as each of us took turns looking like a complete dickhead. Things soon erupted when Robin, a particular nuisance pupil, set about disrupting the drill and mocking Coach in the process. I heard Coach’s outburst while I was practicing at the other end of the floor.  “Don’t pull my dick Robin!” he screamed. What he meant by that I’m still unsure of – I assume it wasn’t literal – but no one was prepared for Robin’s response. “You pull my dick sir and I’ll pull yours!”.

Yep, these were my formative years.

Back to Jim. Earlier in the decade Jim was asked to fill in a few times for my regular Thursday night basketball team. We naturally played a lot better when Jim was in the side, and when he permanently joined the team in 2003 we comfortably marched on to our first championship. Seven years later – and 1 championship and 1 League MVP later – Jim continues to be a rock in our team. When I’m cutting through the lane and about to launch for a thunderous dunk (in my mind) I often find Jim moving into perfect position under the hoop, and I only need to put it within a few feet of him for a guaranteed deuce. He has the soft inside touch of Vlade Divac, combined with the rebounding menace of Charles Oakley, combined with the big-man range of Rasheed Wallace. And if that sounds like a phenomenal mutant athlete, you’d be right. Back in 2007 Jim was fondly watching LeBron James when he was quoted as saying – “he reminds me of a younger version of myself”. That should tell you all you need to know about Jim the Basketball Player.

Jim the Basketball Fan was no different to a lot of Aussies who grew up during the NBL/NBA boom of the nineties. He was a Bulls fan (typical) who appreciated Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman far more than he did MJ (not typical). He was also very fond of Moses Malone (unusual) who he apparently molded some of his game on, and to this day he also maintains a fascination with Clarence Weatherspoon (downright weird). As we all know, basketball lost its appeal in the late nineties and early ’00s as the NBA vanished from Australia and the local league struggled. For most of the past decade, Jim’s interest in the NBA has remained distant at best. While many of my friends slowly adopted or re-adopted an NBA team to follow, Jim did not.

Which brings us to today.

Jim no longer wants to be the roaming nomad of NBA fans. He no longer wants to sit and watch games blankly while his mates root and cheer for their teams and heroes. While I gloat about the glory days of Detroit past and the unrealised potential of Rodney Stuckey. While Chucko screams in delight at Goran Dragic’s last layup or Nash’s one-eyed heroics. While Wibo expresses his boundless and quite frankly homo-erotic love for Ray Allen and his lack of bodily hair. Jim wants a piece of this. Jim wants his own team, his own heroes.

“So pick one”, you might say. Not so easy.

As arbitrary as NBA team selection might be for many Aussies – the majority of us will hold no allegiance to any US city or college – picking your team is not a trivial matter. Not in a sports-mad country like Australia. You don’t want to pick a team to later realise they’re crap and give you no enjoyment as a fan. You don’t want to just pick the best team at the risk of being labelled a “bandwagoner”. And you certainly don’t want to pick a team only to change it again months or years later down the track. You will lose all credibility as a sports fan, as a basketball fan. And for a man who has been being playing basketball most of his life, Jim does not deserve this fate.

“So just pick the Bulls, since they were his old team anyway”, you might say. This was the first thought that went through my mind when Jim confronted me a few weeks ago. “The Bulls are a pretty good team Jim” I told him. “They have some nice young players, and just made a trade that should make them a playoff lock for years to come”.

Jim nodded. “I do like Boozer” he said, “and Chicago is a cool city…” He didn’t look convinced. He paused. “I was also thinking of becoming a Miami Heat fan. As you know I have always admired LBJ for the way he goes about his basketball, reminding me a lot of myself at his age…” I started to wince. “I also like good looking women, which are commonly found in Miami”. He did have a good point there (as Ash can attest to).

Luckily Jim was aware of the contentious ground he was treading. He voiced his concern at the negative stigma of a “bandwagon supporter”, but then tried to justify it by arguing he doesn’t currently support a team, so picking one from scratch surely couldn’t be perceived negatively. Perhaps he had a point? After all, I’d rather Jim pick a team – any team – than go back to his nomadic NBA fan ways. I’ve always maintained that following the NBA is more fun when you’re behind a team. But was the Heat the right choice?

Chucko also chimed in on the matter. “Maybe you should go for Atlanta? I mean, you follow the Hawks in the AFL, why not follow the Hawks in the NBA?” It had a nice symmetry to it, but Jim didn’t look convinced.

Then the Knicks came up. What better candidate than a historic franchise with cash to splurge and a future that can’t possibly as bleak as their recent past? “I do love New York City” Jim remarked. I could vouch for that. I was in New York with Jim in 2004 and he really did love the place. Everything from their bridges to their bagels. New York was Jim’s kind of city and I could easily picture him wearing a Knicks jersey.

The conversation went around in circles and Jim ended up more confused than he was before it started. He said he needed time. Time to weigh up his options and make the right decision for himself and his family. But with the 2010-2011 preseason barely a month away, time is something Jim doesn’t exactly have in spades.

Stay loyal to Chicago and his schoolboy heroes? Join forces with the superstar trio in Miami? Follow the bright lights to New York? Head to Atlanta because their mascot is the same bird as his favourite AFL team?

These are the questions tearing at the former league MVP right now. This is his dilemma.

His Decision.

Stay tuned to NBAMate as we continue our coverage of Jim and his history-making decision

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